Lawrie the Forgotten Champion Returns

By Associated PressJuly 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Paul Lawrie squirms in his seat, his eyelids drawing a little tighter, his Scottish brogue fading just a bit.
 
He'll be the first to admit that he's not too comfortable with so much attention. Then again, he sure would like to get a little more acclaim for the way he played on the final day of the 1999 British Open.
 
Seems like a reasonable request.
 
After all, Lawrie had one of the greatest closing rounds in Open history, considering the unforgiving course and nasty weather at Carnoustie. His 10-shot comeback is a major championship record. His next-to-last shot -- a 4-iron to 3 feet that sewed up his playoff victory -- was about as good as it gets.
 
Yep, Lawrie's name is forever on the claret jug. It's just not etched in anyone's mind.
 
He won the Open that Jean Van de Velde lost.
 
'I would have liked to have seen a little bit more of 'Jean Van de Velde blew the Open but, by God, Paul Lawrie shot 67 and won the tournament by two shots by hitting the best shot anyone has ever seen down at the last hole,'' he said, sounding both sad and perturbed. 'But that didn't happen very often.'
 
Even now, eight years removed from his greatest victory, Lawrie is still getting overlooked.
 
This should be a moment of triumph -- the former champ returning to Carnoustie -- but the buildup to the Open provided more replays of Van de Velde standing barefooted in the Barry Burn than Lawrie holding up one of golf's most treasured prizes.
 
And, as if rubbing it in, the pairings came out: Lawrie is teeing off Thursday alongside two-time defending champion Tiger Woods, who always attracts the largest galleries and the most attention.
 
Rest assured, there will be plenty of cheers from the Scottish fans for one of their own when Lawrie is introduced. Then, all eyes will quickly shift to the world's No. 1 player, as Woods tries to become the first golfer in a half-century to win the oldest major three years in a row.
 
'From a personal point of view, I would rather it be low key,' Lawrie said. 'But you want to play with the best players. Obviously, Tiger is by far the best player in the world right now, and I'm looking forward to playing with him for two days. It will be all right.'
 
The 38-year-old Lawrie, who was born and still lives right up the road in Aberdeen, is viewed as one of the most fluky major champions, a guy who benefited from Van de Velde's improbable meltdown on the 72nd hole.
 
Needing only a double-bogey 6 to wrap up the title, the Frenchman hit one errant shot after another on his way to a 7. That's what everyone remembers. They seem to forget that Lawrie closed with a 4-under 67 on a course where the best total score was 6 over. They overlook that he knocked off Van de Velde and Justin Leonard in the playoff, closing with a pair of birdies on two of the toughest finishing holes in the world.
 
At least Lawrie's fellow golfers, especially those who play with him on the European Tour, are quick to give him his due.
 
'From my perspective, it's not overlooked,' England's Justin Rose said. 'I recognize, having been here that year, how incredible 67 was the last day, and to come from 10 shots back. It's a miracle round.'
 
Unfortunately for Lawrie, there have been no more miracles.
 
He's managed only two wins since that magical day along the North Sea, the last coming five long years ago at the Wales Open. He dipped as low as 140th in the European Tour rankings and would have lost his card if not for that '99 title. This season, he's missed the cut in half of his 16 events, still looking for his first top-10 showing. A prominent London bookie listed him as a 200-to-1 long shot this week.
 
Showing the perpetual optimism of a golfer, Lawrie points to subtle signs of improvement.
 
'My game is in reasonable shape,' he insisted. 'Not that I ever talk about making the cut being a good week, but I've made four of the last five cuts, which I hadn't been doing at the start of the year. That's a positive there. There's been some very, very good patches of play the last few weeks.'
 
Lawrie has never gotten to sit down with Van de Velde over a pint of beer or a good meal, two mates reliving the shots that left them forever linked. They weren't close friends before the '99 Open. They aren't close now. There was never any reason to propose such a summit meeting.
 
'We say hello and when we play together, we always have good fun,' Lawrie said. 'I've never been to dinner with him or breakfast with him. So, that conversation has never taken place, and I wouldn't imagine that it ever would.'
 
There's certainly no chance of it happening this week. Van de Velde didn't qualify for this year's Open, and he wouldn't have been able to play anyway because of a mysterious ailment that has plagued him for several months.
 
As for Lawrie, he'd rather talk about playing in front of his two boys, 12-year-old Craig and 8-year-old Michael. They got to pose with the claret jug in '99, but they were too young to have any memories of that seminal event in their daddy's life.
 
'They're both playing golf regularly,' Lawrie said, looking forward to riding home with his boys after the first two rounds. 'They will ask what I hit in '99 and what I hit this time. They've both got a real good idea about golf and the players, so it should really be good.'
 
And, hopefully, they won't ask him about Van de Velde.
 
'What can I do?' Lawrie rued. 'There was a lot written about what Jean did, and rightly so. I didn't read a lot about how well I did the last day. But that's not my job.'
 
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    Casey in line to make Ryder Cup after Travelers T-2

    By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:30 am

    Despite coughing up a four-shot lead at the Travelers Championship, England's Paul Casey moved into a qualifying position to make his return to the Ryder Cup this fall in Paris.

    Casey struggled Sunday at TPC River Highlands, shooting a 72 as Bubba Watson raced to victory with a 63. But a four-way share of second place was still good enough to lift Casey into fourth place among those not already qualified on the World Points list, with the top four Europeans from that list in August punching their tickets to Le Golf National.

    Casey has played in three Ryder Cups before, but none since 2008. After renouncing his European Tour membership a few years ago, he reinstated it for the 2018 season in order to be eligible to return to the biennial matches.

    Here's a look at the updated standings for Europe, with the top four players from each points list ultimately joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari

    ---

    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Matthew Fitzpatrick

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Paul Casey

    ---

    5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

    6. Ian Poulter


    On the American side of the ledger, Watson jumped two spots to fifth with his third win of the year and seemingly locked up his spot on the squad, while Bryson DeChambeau moved inside the top eight with a top-10 finish in Connecticut.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship earning automatic bids:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Bubba Watson

    6. Jordan Spieth

    7. Rickie Fowler

    8. Bryson DeChambeau

    ---

    9. Webb Simpson

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

    Getty Images

    Watson cracks top 15 in world with Travelers win

    By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:15 am

    After his third win in the last five months, Bubba Watson is back on the cusp of the upper echelon in the world rankings.

    Watson started the year ranked No. 89 in the world, but after a three-shot victory at the Travelers Championship the southpaw moved up seven spots to No. 13 in the latest rankings. It marks his best position since a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2017.

    Watson stayed one spot behind Paul Casey, who was one of four runners-up in Connecticut and rose one position to 12th as a result. Beau Hossler's T-2 finish helped him jump 24 spots to No. 64, while J.B. Holmes went from 93rd to 75th with the same result. Stewart Cink, who grabbed a share of second with a final-round 62, went from No. 149 to No. 95 and is back inside the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since September 2011.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    Matt Wallace, who won the BMW International Open on the European Tour, went from 91st to 66th.

    There was only one change among the top 10 in the rankings, as an idle Jon Rahm moved past Jordan Spieth at No. 5 despite Spieth's T-42 finish at TPC River Highlands. At No. 6, Spieth is at his lowest point in the rankings since before last summer's victories at Travelers and The Open.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rahm. Spieth slid to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Poised to return to competition this week at the Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods fell three spots to No. 82 in the latest rankings.

    Getty Images

    After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...

    Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.

    Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.

    A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.

    So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray


    On the difference between this week and last week ...

    There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.

    Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.

    At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard


    On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...

    Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.

    Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

    This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.

    Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell

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    Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup

    By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:39 am

    CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.

    Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

    After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”

    Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.

    “Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”